As the dining scene slowly moves away from high-end fine dining tasting menu restaurants and towards more casual (though not necessarily less expensive) options, Chicago has experienced many closures. In 2017, we lost Tru, 42 Grams, Grace, mk, Intro, and more—a huge swath of Chicago’s finest spots were suddenly gone. Now, we can add another iconic spot to that list of casualties, as Sixteen (401 N. Wabash Ave, River North), the acclaimed two-Michelin-starred restaurant in the Trump International Hotel and Tower, is closing to re-concept at the end of April.
“This has been in the works for longer than most people might realize,” says Sixteen chef Nick Dostal. Conversations about renovation began at the beginning of 2017 and were driven in part by what Dostal and others at Sixteen saw as changing preferences on the part of diners. “People are going out a lot more, which means restaurants have to be more accessible—they don’t want to save up for just one expensive dinner. If you look at any of the great chefs in the city, they’re going in this direction.”
So what does “this direction” mean for Sixteen going forward? There’s no name yet for the new concept, but there are a few details. Tasting menus are out, small plates and share plates are in. The cuisine will be…well, kind of a mix. “I hate the phrase ‘American New Fine Dining’ but that’s what it is,” Dostal says. “It’s a lot of my influence—French cuisine, Italian cuisine, and a lot of Asian flavors.” There will be a bar in the dining room and a burger on the menu. According to Dostal, a diner will be able to get in and out for under $50 – unless they choose to “throw down” and grab some of the more luxurious dishes on the menu.
Another exciting new development for Sixteen will be the integration of the terrace. “I think the entire city wasn’t sure about the terrace,” said Dostal. “It wasn’t cohesive with the rest of the floor.” Moving forward, the terrace, with some of the best views in Chicago, will effectively be the patio for the new restaurant. Dostal insists, however, that the most important things aren’t changing. The entire staff is staying through the renovation, and he plans to keep up the high standards that always ruled the day at Sixteen. “It’s a level of execution and a level of attentiveness, and I know we’re going to carry that over into this new concept.” The wine program will shift a bit as well. Dostal says he told wine director Parag Lalit to keep the list’s depth, even if more affordable bottles get added: “I don’t want this to become a one-page wine list where every bottle is $50.”
Over the next month, between March 28 and April 28, Sixteen will be throwing itself a blowout goodbye. They’ll be running a “Best of Sixteen” menu, including dishes from past chefs Thomas Lents and Frank Brunacci, which will feature (of course) sixteen courses for $220 a person. “I want everyone who has ever wanted to dine at Sixteen to come in for this new menu,” Dostal says.